The Roadtrip

Recently me and Richard (my friend and fellow photographer whom I shot burnt trees and holes with) went on a roadtrip north. The primary mission was two-fold: to shoot family and pregnancy photos of wonderful Lea and her family, and for me to replace my server in the co-lo.

Both of these missions were successes, and you’re reading this served from the new machine.

Here’s some photos from the trip:

Debating the editing

Just the other day I published a new naked portrait. I’m very pleased with this one, and very pleased with several other things as well. I’m very happy that my father showed me an interesting way to light subjects, which I used in this session. I’m also very pleased with the simple fact that I get better at doing this, and each time I take a portrait not only do I get more keepers but also I get more in sync with my own artistic visions and my confidence as a photographer become better.

There is some debate regarding editing. Me, I’m very candid with my own opinion that I consider editing my photos just as important as taking them. I often jokingly claim that I’m actually better at editing photographs than taking them. But occasionally I encounter photographers who have a somewhat snobbish attitude that editing is “cheating” and that “real” photographers do it in camera and “get it right” the first time. Ken Rockwell is famous for this attitude.

Me, I think it’s a load of bullshit. Even back in the days of film, most photographers worth their salt spent more or less time in the darkroom. Some photographers less, and some more. The darkroom, just like the camera, is a tool in the process of creating an image. Digital technology have enabled us to do the same things much easier, quicker and with more grace and power, but the underlying framework is essentially the same as in the darkroom filled with paper, chemicals and the photographers vision.

I draw a strict line between editing and retouching. Editing is the same thing as done in the darkroom – correcting levels, adding a bit of saturation here and there, dodging and burning. Retouching on the other hand is manipulation.

Again, I’m very candid about what I retouch in my photos: I remove temporary blemishes such as a pimple or a bruise but I never, never remove scars, cellulites or anything that is permanent. Editing a photo is important to my creative process. Without editing, I would not reach my photographic and creative visions. With that said, I dislike over-edited and plastic-looking photographs. I don’t like when overzealous editors or retouchers have turned people into botox-looking plastic zombies, or when editing is used to wildly manipulate an image into something it wasn’t from the start.

Finally, let me show a comparison. It’s the same image but on the left is how it looked straight out of the camera. To the right, after some basic editing in Lightroom. What has been changed? Exposure has been adjusted, levels have been adjusted and I added a slight vignetting around the image to enhance the face. Some other very minor tweaks. Is it too much? I think not.


The Five Minute Portrait

I like the five minute portrait. It’s quick, it’s raw and it’s fun. While not literally five minutes it’s still very quick and spontaneous. Down below is a friend I shot yesterday. I think total shoot-time was maybe twenty minutes. Fun!

(Pro tip: it helps if your gear, flashes and what-not is ready to go so you don’t waste time setting it up.)





Portrait of a cat

I was shooting a session for my Naked Portraits-series and my cat was being social. When we were finished, I decided to try to take some impromptu portraits of the cat since I already had my gear out and ready.

This cat has lived with me for fourteen years. About a month ago she was diagnosed with tumors in her mammaries and that was when I realized our time together was coming to an end. I’ve decided to try to document our time together – and to try to take portraits of a subject who is epically difficult to take portraits of.

Here, with some slight deception (and candy) I think I managed to take a half-decent studio-style portrait of the little black cat who’ve spent fourteen years in my company, and whom I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying the company of.

She’s a tricky little madam, with a lot of pecularities as cats tend to have. But I’m going to miss her when she’s gone.


Breaking The Rules

Another portrait of Corni. Here I broke a “rule” of portraiture where you’re not supposed to have stuff in the foreground since this allegedly is distracting to the eye. I did this intentionally since I don’t believe in any rules for creative endeavors. My philosophy is that if you like it and think it looks good, then do it. I may be some po-dunk amateur at this compared to, say, Ken Rockwell or Jared Polin but I do it my way.


Headshot Howto

This is a portrait from back in January, depicting one of my oldest friends. We’ve known each other for 20 years now and I forced him to sit for a few portraits. He lived with me for a few months while he needed a place to crash. He’d just come back from the getting his hair cut and he looked really fresh with his hair styled and a black shirt. I figured it was perfect setup for a good headshot-style portrait.

Now, this is an example of how a photo can look a lot more involved than it actually is. When he put these photos up on Faceplus and Googlebook (or whatever) he got a lot of comments about how professional they looked. Well, the reality is that he’s sitting on a stool in front of a fairly narrow piece of my living-room wall. I’ve shot him with my manual-focus 105/2.5 which was on a tripod. Lighting was a single Nikon SB-700 (and the ambient light normal to my living-room) which I held with my left hand since I didn’t have a stand or anything. There’s no light-modification, no umbrella or anything. Just me trying to hold it at a decent angle and triggering the camera with a wireless remote. If you look closely you can see he’s a little purple around his eyes, that’s a mild allergic reaction to my cat; I tried to edit it out but it just didn’t look good so I left it in.